Ashli Babbitt was a lovely Air Force veteran who posted videos of herself attending a Trump rally in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021. “God bless America,” she says with a cheerful expression. Her love for her country shines through. One can see that when she served her nation in uniform, it meant a lot to her. Around her, in a steady flow of people, moved a great mass of humanity, driven by a deep sense of patriotism. They walked in joyful determination to the Capitol to send a loud message to those who sought to steal the American republic from the people whom it was designed to serve, and to whom it rightfully belongs to this day.
No characteristic united Babbitt to fellow Trump supporters more clearly than love of country. Not a mild or intellectual regard for history or the political philosophers whose ideas may have contributed to the Constitution. We speak here of a deep love, a powerful feeling of connection to, and delight over, the nation, its history, and its collective dreams. Patriotism can be beneficial. It can be dangerous sometimes, though that is not the case for Ashli Babbitt or her fellow travelers. Jesus said famous in the book of John, “there is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for friends.” The willingness to die for someone else is sometimes a show of immense love, which no other demonstration of love can rival.
As Babbitt and her companions moved into the Capitol building, they carried with them generations of patriotism. Brought up on tales of 1776, stories of heroic service in the Civil War, and the glories of the Greatest Generation flying to faraway places like Anzio and Saipan, the Trump supporters believed in something. Their opponents, consisting primarily of the jaded left and the smug, corrupted right, don’t share their beliefs. Trump supporters rallied around Trump because he represented, in so many ways, a core American dream. The dream was that somehow, even someone with uncouth manners and vast flaws could rise above barriers and attain greatness. The Trumps are rich–everyone knows that–but Trump’s everyman status isn’t based on socioeconomic class. He had to be rich to buck the system. Other than his loads of money, he had the kind of brash, gruff, and swaggering attitude that gets people fired all across America. They’ve been getting fired an awful lot in the last ten years because regardless of political beliefs, blunt personalities do not thrive under political correctness. Trump served as a sign to people all across America that their vision of the nation still lived on, and this was still a country where someone could beat all the odds and rise to prominence despite all the most severe resistance of the classes entrenched in power.
The enemies of Trump are, in fact, the enemies of most people who supported Trump. Trump’s enemies are systems, most of all: the court system, the media, the university professorate, the corporations, the priggish elites that run Christian denominations, the shadowy intelligence community, the priesthood of politicians growing fat and rich in their untouchable seats of power. These are more machines than people. Tens of millions of people deal, in every day life, with these machines. As someone who often gets driven out of professions and social cliques for being blunt and stepping on people’s toes, I understand a lot of the appeal for Trump supporters. We don’t worry so much about common bullies like a stuck-up prom queen or an egotistical quarterback; we can handle those with our own mix of hardened confidence and perseverance.
But we hate machines. We can’t stand the bureaucrats. We can’t stand people who get their way with paperwork and secret caballing. In a world overgrown with institutions based on peer review, discretionary decisions, and nepotism, we have not thrived the way institutionalized people have thrived. We don’t go along to get along. We aren’t socially acceptable in polite society. And it drives us crazy that our skills and heartfelt devotion to our dreams don’t matter. We can always be taken down by forces beyond our control.
In other words, we form the Trump base: good-hearted people who love our country and see that one of the country’s most basic beliefs–the belief that with hard work and dedication you can build a good life that can’t be taken away from you by cheaters–is no longer true. The Trump voter is someone who loves America but knows the system has become rigged. There are many people who love America but don’t realize that it’s rigged now; these are the milquetoast conservatives who melt when the crisis intensifies and start blaming Trump for being too crass. They are the Kelly Loefflers and John Cornyns of the world, shielded by their etiquette and connections, immune to the urgency felt by those who know the country has become rigged.
Then there are people who know the country’s rigged but don’t love their country. These are the rioters who burnt down American cities, tore down statues, and railed against American history.
Some people don’t love their country and also don’t think the country’s rigged. This would be self-serving people who don’t feel the backlash from the machines running America, since their lackluster drive and unwillingness to risk displeasing peers lead them to a comfortable position vis-a-vis those in power.
To understand the Trump supporter, someone like Ashli Babbit, you have to be open to the unique knowledge held by people who love their country and also know that the country’s in trouble because it has become rigged. People with this perspective see things that the other groups do not. People who are outside this constituency may not see the vast toll the corruption will take on an irreplaceable nation, because they don’t love their country and don’t fathom what a blessing America has been in the world. Others outside of the Trump constituency might love America but exist with too much naivety to see past fake news, fake statistics, fake church doctrines, fake advertising, fake laws, fake judges, fake politicians and the rest. They may believe lies such as the lie that Biden won the election fairly or that the courts rejected election fraud complaints because judges were right about whether there was evidence of fraud.
The Trump supporters are not emotional or duped. Quite the contrary. The Trump supporters’ love of country gives them a strong sense of proportionality and urgency; they know how much can be lost. At the same time, their skepticism allows them to see true information because they pierce through the clouds of dissimulation by the deceitful machines that have rigged the country.
That is Ashli Babbit and the people who went with her to the Capitol. They trespassed into the Capitol because they carried the nation’s traditions in their hearts. They believe in the Constitution and take it seriously: this is a republic by the people, of the people, for the people. In other words, that Capitol belongs to the people. And it’s being stolen from the people. It is becoming the private property of an elite class that has barricaded itself off from the people they are supposed to serve. Congress has turned a deaf ear to the economic realities of people in America. Congress has friends in the media who drown out dissent so they have buffered themselves from criticism. And it has become undeniably clear that our elections are fake. The people in Congress do not have to fear being voted out of office as long as they have something to trade in exchange for the services of cheating experts. The latter can rig the elections so that the same politicians get to return year after year without any threats to their power.
The integrity of the vote is precious. It lies at the core of our nation’s greatness. If the votes are rigged, then it makes no difference who has the best ideas or strongest performance. An infinitesimally small class of people has control over who gets to serve in public office. The people, especially the blunt people who like Donald Trump, are by fiat shut out from power. The country belongs to them but it is being stolen from them. That is worth storming a Capitol for. It is worth the risk and danger. Ashli Babbitt surely knew that, and that is why she did what she did.
The average American has every reason not to sympathize with congressmen outraged that a mass of citizens would trespass to enter the Capitol building. I speak as an average American (my family of four is almost perfectly at the median income level.) We don’t feel comfortable or safe at our jobs; we have to deal with the constant threat of being called in and threatened by bosses, fired, or attacked by clients, patrons, or stakeholders. We don’t feel safe in the streets of America, having gone through a year of a pandemic and riots by Black Lives Matter. We don’t get to lie and do shoddy work at our jobs, or we get fired. Congresspeople in the Capitol are at their workplace, not their homes. They work for us, we do not work for them. They have been doing a lousy job and have engaged in every kind of corruption to ensure that they never face the consequences for it. If they never know that they cannot brush aside the people’s grievances, then they will only get worse.
A Capitol police officer was on one side of a glass partition, seeing Ashli with a mass of people moving up a stairwell into another section of the Capitol. In an image that will go down in history, the guard fires a shot through the glass, and Ashli Babbitt is struck in the neck. The round throws her down in a bloody mess. Like Joan of Arc struck by an arrow, she dies with cameras rolling to capture the gruesome tragedy. One mitigating factor in the tragedy is that she no doubt knew the risks she was taking when she went into the Capitol building and was prepared to make a great sacrifice for what she believed.
Everybody, including Trump supporters, anticipated that the people in power would twist around the meaning of the storming of the Capitol and the significance of whatever casualties would arise. Of course the powerful will declare these dissidents terrorists and seek to censor them. Of course they will pass laws trying to blot them out of the professions and drive them to suicide or to some kind of desperate outburst that could be used to imprison them again. The Soviets declared dissenters insane. The Nazis labeled them threats to safety and placed them in camps. The Maoists considered them stupid and sought to re-educate them. This is what people in power do when their power is threatened.
But as painful as it might be to consider this, one ought to ponder the positive side of what happened on January 6. Sunlight is a powerful disinfectant. There were many people who doubted that the left was capable of such evils as lying, cheating, and tyranny. The powerful people’s reaction to the Capitol affair must dispel any doubt. They have already moved to support no-fly lists, curfews, firings of dissenters, seizure of people’s assets, mass defamation, and the unleashing of secret police on people. Nancy Pelosi called military leaders hoping to depose Donald Trump, before calling for his impeachment. Bills have been put forward in Congress to expel any legislator who questioned the stolen election of 2020. Censorship comes naturally to them. Some people will still be too cowardly or naïve to acknowledge the evil in the elites, but these are the people who will never be convinced of anything until they read about atrocities in history books decades after the events actually happened. There are some who must be realizing how depraved our ruling elite is. An elite that could throw away its Constitution under these circumstances is certainly able to orchestrate stolen elections, mass propaganda campaigns, and tyranny on a massive scale.
Some people, myself included, have suffered the tactics of the oppressive elite for decades, but in silence. For the first time a large segment of the population realizes what it means to live in a corrupt society where the elite’s machine rigs everything and lies constantly. If the January 6 incident had not happened, the machine would have continued expanding its control without this many people seeing what was wrong. We must credit the hundreds of thousands of patriots who went to Washington DC for their bravery. Their willingness to risk all in a confrontation led to the powerful elite’s exposure for its tyrannical practices.
Lastly, there is a tactical issue. The backlash is terrifying, I know. But the oppressors have now been jolted and staggered. The deep state is trying to control and silence people all across the country, on every corner of the internet, at every office, and in every home. They will become overextended. Which means they will emerge from all of this weaker than they were before. These are lessons from the Patriot Act days. I am NOT equating the storming of the Capitol to the attacks on 9/11, but merely pointing out the general principle of overreach and backfire. The USA reacted to 9-11 by invading Iraq and Afghanistan. This made the USA weaker militarily. If we understand that today’s deep state is analogous to the Bush regime of 2001, then my caveat-ridden analogy might make sense. The deep state is weaker to the extent that it tries to control more than is possible. In that sense the tragedy of January 6 is not without a silver lining. Had no protest happened on January 6, Congress would have certified the election and the Trump haters would still be saying the same things about his supporters. The difference, again, is that they wouldn’t be trying to stamp out wildfires in 3,000 counties, and they’d be able to conserve their strength to accomplish real, enduring, and lethal dictatorship.